Poltergeeks, by Sean Cummings

  • TITLE: Poltergeeks
  • AUTHOR: Sean Cummings
  • PUBLISHER: Strange Chemistry
  • PUBLICATION DATE: 2nd October 2012

13533669I went into Poltergeeks unsure and remained that way for the greater part of the book. I did not get on well with this title, I’ll say that now. I’ll also say that I always feel irrationally bad for giving books a bad review… I feel sorry for the books. I mean, poor books!

It wasn’t the plot as much as it was the characters and their execution, and the fact that the story just did not grip me. It felt like we were moving forwards on tracks towards a goal only the writer could see. Any twists along the way felt horribly cliché and just lowered the overall delivery of the story. There are times and places where clichéd tropes and plotlines can be tweaked and redone and made exciting again, and others where they cannot. Here we are presented with yet another young person whose power is greater than they think and a legacy awaits them, which, until now, has been kept a secret. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers but it was that vein of the story that irked me the most.

It did not feel like an original story and maybe that might have been okay if the characters had been stronger and more engaging.

Julie Richardson is a witch, her mother’s apprentice. That’s fine by her, despite the fact that her mother thinks she can’t do anything by herself and she’s always playing second fiddle. That is until Julie’s mum is pulled into something that begins as a seemingly random ghost attack and eventually turns into a fight for Julie’s mum’s soul. With only a spirit bound by agreement to her mother to help her and Marcus at her side, Julie needs to act before time runs out. She stands to lose her mother and with the danger into which she’s dragging Marcus, her best friend, too. But there’s a secret, something that Julie has not yet been told—something that could change the way she lives and uses her magic forever.

I liked Marcus best. I have a soft spot for the science geeks and nerds, because I see myself. Marcus was cool and it was fun to read a story with a female lead and a quirky boy sidekick. That went down well and kept me reading.

However, I could not warm to Julie no matter how I tried. When drafting this review, I had to look up her name as I had quite literally forgotten it. She was forgettable. I had been hoping for a strong, quirky, geeky (as indicated by the title…) protagonist and I don’t feel this was delivered. Making outdated references to Star Wars does not make Julie a geek. She did not really read like a geek because she did not really have much personality at all. It’s actually a pet-peeve with YA books, that none of the references are actually current: I’ve never even watched Star Wars or the stuff of that generation and yet authors keep making references to it as though it’s the indicator of a geek. I reference and quote stuff I grew up with, so do my friends. Julie and other teens should be likening what happens to them to the stuff they grew up with in turn. Perhaps there was only one quote or reference, but it stuck with me because you see it so much.

Then there was the goth girl. It’s pretty hard to express how much the latex and bitch heels annoyed me. As someone who has been a goth guy and hung out with goth girls I’d like authors to ditch the cliché and paint a goth girl in the school-friendly clothes she would more likely have worn. Velvet, layered skirts, Docs; rock the Medieval look for once instead of dressing a fifteen year old in clubbing gear.  Again, it was minor but it stood out, especially next to Julie’s blandness.

At first I was intrigued by the plot—poltergeists, magic, witches; fantastic!—but as it progressed I found I was only reading to find out what else Julie dragged Marcus into. There was something about Poltergeeks that just kept me at a distance: it was not engaging or gripping and seemed to drag on. Had Cummings have written a short story, Poltergeeks could have worked just as well. Perhaps it might have worked better.

Julie was neither likeable nor dislikeable protagonist, and maybe that was the problem. She was ultimately so bland and lacking in any colour or personality that she faded away onto the page. Which is a pity, since witchcraft and hauntings are definitely something to whet my appetite.

I wanted to love Poltergeeks from the cover, which is gorgeous and dynamic, and from the blurb, and yet I’m not sure I even liked it. The story just was completely and utterly lacking and having read some excellent YA fantasy this year, the bar is set pretty high now.

Overall, I grew very bored very quickly and did not warm to Julie one little bit. Maybe next time, should Julie’s story continue, I might give it another go.



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